When does a book cease to be a book? When does a collection of words and pictures on a page become something approaching high art, to be placed on a pedestal with the finest of paintings or the most beautiful pieces of classical music? Where the line is drawn is a matter of taste and predilection but, one thing’s for sure, The Wonder by Francesca Sanna has crossed the boundary. This is more than a book. By any measure, it’s a work of art.
Much credit must go to the publishers, Flying Eye Books, who have produced a book of tremendous quality – it begs to be held and treasured. The hardback cover is fringed with a thumb-width of fabric; the paper is free of tacky gloss and has a texture more like cartridge paper; the font sits serenely on the page, allowing the illustrations to come to the fore. There’s the kind of detail that tells you The Journey has been designed by people who have love in their hearts. I want to meet them, hug them, and say ‘thank you’.
The illustrations are exceptional, each one painting a thousand words and more. They tell a story that is sad, deeply moving and hugely important – a story about a family who flee their unnamed country to escape a darkly black war that covers the page, creeping across their lives like a monster with mean eyes and jagged fingers. The father is killed and the mother and two children are forced to leave their once peaceful lives ‘in a city close to the sea’. Malevolent characters loom large over the family – a fierce border guard towers over them and tells them to ‘go back’; a trafficker appears as a black silhouette with waspish eyes.
It is truly heart-breaking; a painful, wonderful story about refugees, hope and maternal love. When the children cower, asleep in a trailer while their mother cycles on through the dead of night, it will bring a lump to your throat. Read the words, ‘the further we go…the more we leave behind’ and the lump in your throat will be joined by a tear in your eye. A stunning book.